An infusion of young talent combined with some returning veteran leaders gives Catonsville High’s second-year head coach Ricky Sanchez reason for optimism.
Veteran leaders returning from the 2016 Comets’ 7-6 squad are senior tri-captains Vivian Montogomery-Walsh, Leah Marshall and Aubrie Zepp.
“This group has another good group of leaders,” Sanchez said. “We have our captains, Vivian, Leah and Aubrie, and they are just leading the way.”
Montgomery-Walsh returns as goalie, but could help out on the field because of the continued improvement of junior goalie Hailey Murray, in her third year on varsity.
Zepp and Marshall were starting defenders in the season-opening game on Sept. 5 against Towson, which the Comets lost, 1-0, when the game was cancelled with 27:09 left in the first half because of thunderstorms.
Towson was awarded the victory since it is considered an official game once one half is completed.
Joining Zepp and Marshall on the defense in the Towson game were juniors Anna Wachsmuth and Sophie Brooks.
Senior Emily Delaney and juniors Savannah Beaver and Haley Waddell bolster the defense.
Offensively, the Comets most dangerous offensive weapon is sophomore Kolby Weedon.
Weedon started on the varsity last season and will be valuable as a forward or attacking midfielder.
In a pre-season scrimmage against Northeast, Weedon had a pair of goals.
“She had two fantastic finishes,” Sanchez said. “The second one was right at the buzzer. She chipped it over the goalie from 20 yards out. She is now more composed and comfortable in those situations and kind of knows what to do at the right time.”
Sanchez even used Weedon at sweeper in a scrimmage against St. Paul’s, because he trusts three freshmen that earned spots on the team.
“It’s good to have some younger players who can step in and fill Kolby’s spot,” Sanchez said.
Against Towson, freshmen Emma Martin and Hazel Montgomery-Walsh started in the midfield with sophomore Lily Mellendick and senior Amber Weedon.
Freshman Casey Buckley could also provide a spark off the bench with her intensity and high motor.
“All three of them [freshman] have been very effective in preseason and in the scrimmages,” Sanchez said. “The freshmen came right in and they’ve been picking up the pace and they fit right in. They have been able to match the speed and the physicality of the game, which is impressive.”
Senior Rory Black, juniors Lilly Scott and Abbi Boehl and sophomore Annabelle Dunigan add depth to the offense
“She [Black] is very disciplined as far as staying in the center of the field,” Sanchez said. “She’s very controlled, even-keeled and mature holding down the middle for us.”
Despite the graduations of eight seniors, including speedy forward Kayla Wood, who is playing lacrosse at the University of North Carolina, and 6-foot-3-inch feature defender Jen Gast, who is playing basketball at UMBC, Sanchez likes his new team.
“We have cohesiveness on this team, a good chemistry and a good vibe among the players,” said Sanchez, noting they are also willing to work hard. “They appreciate the fitness that we do.”
That work ethic surfaced in an overtime scrimmage against Marriotts Ridge.
“They kept flying to the ball and worked hard for 100 minutes,” Sanchez had.
In the regular-season loss to Towson, Catonsville played just under 53 minutes and the only goal came on a shot by Emma Kirts from 30 yards out.
“It was a great shot,” Sanchez said. “I just told the girls, soccer is a cruel game, you can get the momentum and all it takes is one little opening and they took advantage of it.”
Catonsville followed the defeat to Towson with a 4-0 loss to Severna Park and they ended the week by playing in the Catonsville Invitational Tournament and losing to Mount Hebron, 6-0, and Centennial, 1-0, on penalty kicks.